The streetcar is one of the fastest growing modes of transportation in the U.S. The revival of streetcars is happening in about two dozen cities. One of them is Tuscon, where the city spent more than $160 million to invest in its new system.
Proponents say streetcars bring major economic benefits to an area, including new jobs and higher real estate values. But others say the trams are a waste of public dollars and even though they look nice, streetcars don’t serve transportation needs.
Shellie Ginn oversees Tucson's streetcar project and joins Here & Now's to discuss the challenges and why the city felt it was a good investment.
On who's riding and where the line goes
“We actually have higher ridership than we'd estimated. We have a lot more people riding that we hadn’t anticipated. And we’ve had a really good response on taking advantage of the streetcar as well... It’s about a four mile line and it connects our University of Arizona Medical Center — University Campus to some shopping districts that also connect to a downtown, and over to a western redevelopment area.”
On the economic benefits of streetcar lines
“So typically where you have transit street car stops or light rail stops, those are areas where you’ll have a lot more businesses and developers interested in developing along that line because they know it’s an infrastructure that’s a permanent infrastructure and it’s not easily removed. When you have rail on the line and you’ve got stops, you’ve got a lot of banks and businesses that want to take the chance on opening a business on something that they know is going to stay there permanently.”
On drawing from examples in other cities
“We definitely looked at Portland, Oregon — they were probably our number one city that we used as an example for what we could possibly do. They have a very similar type system from their startup to what we were trying to do, again connecting their university to their downtown and to a redevelopment area known as the Pearl District. We also looked at other cities such as San Francisco, New Orleans, Seattle as potential systems we could take lessons learned from and then of course we have in our own backyard a light rail in Phoenix which we again we were able to take advantage of lesson learned from that group and really apply them to what we were doing here in Tucson.”
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